The State Association of Jewish Federations thanked Gov. Chris Christie for pledging to keep state-imposed sanctions against Iran in place, even after an international regimen of sanctions is eased as part of the six-nation agreement to stop Iranian development of nuclear weapons.
Christie and 14 other governors, all Republicans, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Sept. 8 expressing their opposition to the deal.
“We wish to make it clear to you in advance,” their letter read, “that we intend to ensure that the various state-level sanctions that are now in effect remain in effect. These state-level sanctions are critically important and must be maintained.”
A bipartisan law signed by Christie in 2012 prohibits public contracts with any company or person that invests in Iran’s energy and finance sectors.
The Iran agreement stipulates that the United States will “actively encourage” officials at the state or local level to lift their sanctions in concert with the deal.
However, “‘Encourages’ is not a mandate, and we want to make certain it does not become a mandate,” said Jacob Toporek, executive director of the State Association.
“Our position is very clear. Whatever was agreed to at the federal level is not a mandate against state legislation,” said Mark Levenson, president of the State Association and a partner of the Newark law firm Sills Cummis Gross.
In a Sept.16 phone interview, Levenson said that state sanctions against Iran imposed in 2008 and reinforced in 2012 “were not solely because of the nuclear agreement. They are about its terrorist regime and bad acts. We don't think anything in this agreement mandates or requires the state to abrogate its statute.”
Toporek agreed. He said that while internationally imposed sanctions were designed to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons, state sanctions have a broader intent.
“Many state laws are based on the fact that Iran is an exporter of international terrorism,” he told NJJN. “As long as that language is on the books, the state sanctions can remain in effect.”
Levenson said the association “will be going to encourage other New Jersey communities – and frankly they don’t have to be Jewish communities — to support state sanctions against Iran, and we are going to encourage other states that have similar legislation be enforced.”